EAS Codes Defined

Preparing for DHS Alerts from NWR
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EDITORS NOTE: The following article was submitted by Gary Timm, broadcast chair of the Wisconsin EAS Committee.

MILWAUKEE

On June 17, 2004, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) signed an agreement with NOAA/NWS addressing the transmission of DHS-originated emergency messages over All-Hazards NOAA Weather Radio (NWR).

Should DHS become aware of a threat in a particular state or area of the country, it will contact the authorities in each involved state for coordination and then issue an alert to all NWS offices via a link in the Washington, D.C. area.

NWS offices with NWR coverage areas affected by the threat will broadcast the message on NWR, using the DHS-requested EAS/SAME event code.

Currently, the alert will not be relayed in text form on NOAA Weather Wire Service (NWWS), EMWIN or any other NWS system.

NEW CODES NEEDED

Although many broadcasters have upgraded their EAS units to the new EAS event codes released in 2002, some have not taken the second step to ensure that the EAS units are programmed to react to the new codes. If broadcasters want to relay these DHS alerts, they will need to know the originator code and event codes to program their EAS unit filters. In reviewing NWS documents NWSI 10-1710 and NWSI 10-518, as well as information provided by Herb White, dissemination services manager at NWS headquarters, the following recommendations are believed to be appropriate at this time.

RECOMMENDED CODES

The originator code on all DHS alerts will be CIV--Civil Authorities. (Even though the alerts are first broadcast on NWR, they are nonweather alerts originated by Civil Authorities and thus will not carry WXR--the National Weather Service originator code.)

One of three event codes will normally be used.

CEM (Civil Emergency Message) or CDW (Civil Danger Warning) will be used to activate the alerts. ADR (Administrative Message) will be used to terminate the alerts.

To be on the safe side, Herb White advises broadcasters to program also the following codes for possible DHS use: EVI, HMW, RHW, SPW, FRW, LAE and NUW.

At the present time, NOAA has requested that DHS use only the CEM code, until we can get the word out to the broadcast community to add the other codes to our EAS unit programming. Broadcasters should program these new codes into their EAS unit filters as soon as possible, and all stations are encouraged to share this information with other broadcasters in their area.

In addition to the DHS alerts, NOAA and the FEMA National Warning Center (NWC) have a separate agreement for NWR to transmit warnings of nuclear attack as well as other nonweather alerts. Nuclear attack would use code CDW, and the other nonweather alerts could use any of the additional codes that Herb recommends adding above. Using the above guidelines for programming DHS alerts should then cover you for NWC alerts as well. The NWC alerts are separate from any EAN messages issued by the White House.

LOCAL ALERTING

NWS is taking the new All-Hazards Radio moniker to heart, and has made changes recently to make NWR more available to local civil authorities. As of June 30, 2004, all the new EAS event codes were approved for use on NWR. On Sept. 8, 2004, NWS offices began using the new EAS-equivalent Product Codes in text messaging as well (via NWWS, EMWIN, etc.)

NWS has also published a very helpful document, NWS Instruction 10-518, that aids local authorities in establishing a relationship with their local NWS Office to cover sending local emergency alerts. Sec. 5 of the document, "Civil Emergency Message," addresses local alerting. It deals with developing procedures, issuance criteria and sample scripts.

Appendix C of this document is a landmark because it defines the new specific EAS event codes. These definitions will be used as guidance for federal authorities in issuing alerts, and they can be most useful to local authorities as well. State and local EAS plans should be updated at this time to not only include the relay of DHS alerts, but also to incorporate these new EAS event code definitions. The link to this document is: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/directives/010/pd01005018c.pdf

Looking to the future, NWS is currently working on a system called HazCollect, which it expects to begin deploying in mid-2005. This would be a secure, centralized interface, with backups, that would be used to collect nonweather hazard messages from local, state and federal authorities and get them into the NWR system. NWS is really going the extra mile to work with local authorities, and it's great to see.

For questions on NWR, contact Herbert White at Herbert.White@noaa.gov. Herb is dissemination services manager at NWS headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.